Calling this irregular column 'This Week's Beats' seems a little pointless, given that I've not posted anything for a few months now... anyway, just so you know, I have been downloading an absolute TON of music, and the only reason it hasn't been reviewed is because I've been slack as fuck! Anyway, here's the best of what I've been listening to of late. These are all Creative Commons or Bandcamp releases, so click through the links for free / cheap downloads.
H.W. AKA HAZARDOUS WASTES
'A YEAR'S WORTH OF WORRY'
H.W. is a Boston-based rapper, fiercely independent, and totally committed to playing live shows and writing rhymes. He runs his own label, Delusional Records, and makes tracks with his DJ Emoh Betta. His brand of rap is very personal, deeply confessional and introspective, but laden with pop hooks and clever wordplay. Tracks like 'Shithead' and 'The End of the Line' show H.W. to be quite a moralistic, opinionated writer: on the former he rails against random drunk chicks; the latter is a narrative depicting an unhappy marriage. These themes recur throughout AYWOW, but rather than depressing the listener, H.W. is a talented enough emcee and writer to be able to transcend his themes with clever rhyme schemes and near-flawless technique. This is a release that should appeal to fans of underground rap of the Anticon persuasion as much as it will to more mainstream tastes. Emoh's beats are polished and funky, contrasting nicely with the downbeat lyrical style: the two tracks named above are particular highlights. 'Shithead' revolves around a languid piano riff, while 'The End...' features twanging acoustic guitar. Admittedly, if H.W. continues to write purely about himself, his life and his problems, he risks becoming a self-parody, much like Eminem has in recent years. However, there is enough intelligence and humour in his writing to suggest that as his career progresses, his scope will widen. H.W. is definitely one to watch. We'll hopefully be interviewing him for Weaponizer soon, so eyes peeled.
This album is, quite simply, sick as fuck. 18-year-old producer Mr Boss has assembled a team of slick, funny, disgusting rappers to rhyme over his album of unbelievably polished and inventive beats, and managed to drop an instant classic with his first release. Sonny Jim kills it on 'The Landing' with a standard 'this is us, we're fucking awesome' type verse, which opens the album perfectly. The strangely named Dirty Dike brings the hilarious misogyny on 'Plenty More Piss In The Toilet' (sample rhyme: 'I'd even fuck the gash in your head' - riiiiiight). It's a hard song to take seriously, with a cowboy whistle underscoring the, ahem, colourful lyrics, but this works in its favour. If you're a guy who's just been fucked over by a girl, this track will cheer you up no end. Them Lot bring the heavy philosophy and weed wisdom on the smoked-out 'Young And Foolish,' while Freedom's superlative, spanish guitar and horn-inflected cut 'Unknown Zone' delves even deeper into vivid imagery and deep wordplay - again, perfect smoking music. Freedom also wrecks it on another track - alongside the nu-soul vocals of Cherri, 'Gutter Puddles' is transformed into a moving, deep track about global politics and ghetto reality. Dr Syntax drops a hilarious 'Passing Me By'-style narrative on the fantastic 'Careful What You Wish For,' which features some truly side-splitting rhymes. There is barely a weak track on this album - every rapper acquits himself well, while every single cut from Mr Boss is just insanely professional and slick, completely dedicated to golden-era hip-hop aesthetics. On the strength of this debut, he is a producer with a very bright future. In short, go and download this album NOW, and play it to every real hip-hop head you know. Fantastic stuff.
Fill is a Russian producer, releasing on the Detroit-based experimental netlabel 2 Circles. The highlights of his latest release 'Never Again' are absolutely delightful: the warm sub-bass, old-school electro synths and laidback horns of 'All The Same' are worth downloading the whole release just to check out. This is the kind of music R2D2 would put on if he was trying to seduce Ms PacMan. 'Take It' has some nice analogue synth work, and an insistent, slowed-down four-four pulse. The more ambient sounds of 'Alone Within Four Walls' and 'D Mood' are marginally less successful - at times Fill veers slightly too close to elevator music. The guitar-based 'Balloon' in particular is pretty forgettable. Album-closer'Tribute,' a house-influenced track which takes in Balearic vistas and echoing droplet-synths is easy on the ears, but retains the spark of invention which makes this album's highlights so worthwhile. A varied and interesting release, with some real innovation on its standout tracks.
800 MEMORIES PER SECOND
Recorded mostly live, this stunning release features intricate, layered guitar work and exquisitely understated found sounds. On first listen, this sparse, melancholy album is almost bare - as close to silence as it is to cacophony. Each successive listen reveals new depths and intricacies, taking the listener into strange internal realms of hallucination and inner vision. Finnish producer Taphead seems to be channeling the eldritch, arcane mythology of his native country - these are songs that evoke cold wind whispering through dark forests; lonely snow-filled fields and stark, endless sunlight. A truly beautiful piece of work, falling somewhere between Godspeed You! Black Emperor and minimalist electronica, it rewards repeated play. Download now, listen with your eyes closed. Also check out Taphead's band, Alymysto, for more beautiful Finnish noise and weirdness.
Thats it for today! I've got a ton more stuff to review though, from the likes of Black Lantern collaborator Asthmatic Astronaut (whose 'Super Intelligent Common Sense' is a thing of rare beauty), Daedelus, clearsignals and Lorn. It won't take me a month this time, I hope!